This October, OpenTech grant partner DIAG USA provided OpenTech Program Coordinator Joan Samuels a tour of Germany to learn of its innovative workforce systems and programs. The German American Vocational Career Program tour, which is funded by the German Parliament through the German Consulate, was given on October 23rd to 26th by DIAG and the VFBB Speyer vocational school.

DIAG is an organization which seeks to innovate the future of America’s workforce by creating vocational career systems based on Germany’s Dual Vocational Training Model. The Dual System in Germany assigns students in vocational school to complete an Apprenticeship (Associate’s Degree equivalent) or Dual Education (Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD equivalent) with a trade employer, with whom they sign a contract for the duration of their term. As a core element of their workforce and education success, Apprenticeships in Germany are a system that have come to be recognized around the world.

The first stop of Day 1 was a visit to the Vocational School Technology 2 in Ludwigshafen, one of the most significant vocational schools in the region that teaches 9 different vocational fields. The school, which has 2,300 students and 130 teachers, is partnered with employers that offer their students 2 to 3.5 year long Apprenticeships, which is equivalent to a German Bachelor’s Degree.

Later that day, the tour made a stop at the BASF SE (Baden Aniline and Soda Factory) in Ludwigshafen, the largest union chemical production company in the world founded in 1865. The company uses the Dual Education System for all entry-level workers, the Apprenticeships of which last 3 years, and include Biotechnology, Business Administration and IT, IT Network and Software, Chemistry, Cooking, and Mechanics. About 1,000 Apprentices start at BASF each year, to a total 114,000 worldwide employees. About €100,000 is invested in each Apprentice, illustrating the robust structure of a company whose success relies entirely on the Apprenticeship system.

On the second day, the tour turned from the huge scale of the BASF visit to a small IT company called Fasihi GmbH in Ludwigshafen. Founded in 1990 with 75 employees today, Fasihi offers state-of-the-art information and communications solutions using mostly former Apprentices. One new Apprentice is accepted each year for an AA in IT Specialist or System Integration/App Development, and 4 Dual Education students are accepted for a BA, MA or PhD in Media Management, Communication, or Media Publishing and Creation.

The second stop of Day 2 was the Chamber of Craft Industries Pfalz in Ludwigshafen. To emphasize the gravity of the Apprenticeship system, employers in trade industries are mandated to have membership in the Chamber and to participate in Apprenticeship programs. The Chamber includes 18,000 firms with 86,000 employees including trainees, demonstrating the unity between employers, trainers and workers. It houses 3 Dual Education training centers for 2 to 3.5 year Apprenticeships in construction, mechanics and hairdressing with union negotiated wages.

Day 3 was sparked by a visit to the Department of Water and Power of the Public Services of Speyer GmbH, a regional power supply company in the city of Speyer. The great competition among suppliers in the energy market has built the Public Services into a company of innovation which invests millions into their Dual Education System. The 275-employee company is 10% comprised of Apprentices, who train in IT, Business Administration, or various Maintenance trades, and may move on to Bachelor’s level studies in Technology and Telecommunications. Impressively, 90% of trainees are retained after their Apprenticeships.

Day 3 was bookended at the SAP SE (Systems, Applications and Products) in Walldorf, the third largest software company worldwide. With over 87,000 employees in 130 countries, SAP developed a Global Vocational Training Program, which offers Dual Studies in several countries that are driven by university curriculums. The influential training model was adopted by the US in Philadelphia and titled the SAP Training and Rotation Program, which reaches community college students to transfer to SAP Training-offered universities. Apprentices, many of which train to become IT Specialists, are rotated through different departments to gain insights into the entire company operations.

The tour was closed out on Day 4 with a generous guided trip around local German towns and sites with Doris Barnett, member of the German parliament and DIAG. Overall, valuable insights were gained into the fortitude and efficiency of the workforce systems of Germany, and the extent of what IT Apprenticeships can accomplish for forward-thinking business firms in nations across the globe.

Joan Samuels of OpenTech with the Berufsbildende Schule Technik 2 (Vocational School Technology 2) staff, 2 members of the American Embassy, Doris Barnett and Moritz Oberhofer of the German Parliament, and Doris Eberle, Executive Director of the DIAG, Ludwigshafen.

The BASF headquarters in Ludwigshafen.

The Fasihi software company in Ludwigshafen.

Handwerkskammer der Pfalz (Chamber of Craft Industries Pfalz, or Skilled Craft Chamber of Commerce), Ludwigshafen.

Stadtwerke Speyer GmbH (Public Services of Speyer) – Department of Water and Power in the city of Speyer.

The SAP software company headquarters, Walldorf.

Doris Barnett, member of the Bundestag, or German Parliament, who generously provided Joan Samuels a tour throughout German villages.